KARACHI: Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ehsan Mani said he respects the concerns raised by the New Zealand Government and authorities after seven players of the Pakistan team tested positive for Covid-19 soon after arrival there but denied there is any major danger to the tour in the wake of the incident.

“We respect the NZC and their government’s concern after seven of our players tested positive for Covid-19. Separately, there were a few minor breaches immediately upon the side’s arrival in New Zealand which have been made public without providing any context,” said Mani while talking in Dawn News Program ‘Replay’.

“Despite these, I don’t think there is any danger to the series as our players are strictly following the isolation facility protocols.

“The breaches mentioned by the NZC and New Zealand’s health director happened at a time when the players were checking-in the isolation facility. During that period, they interacted with each other, asked general questions such as prayer area etc, but no major breach occurred,” he added.

“It was a 22-hour journey and the players deserved a bit of a grace period. Nevertheless, breaches have taken place and there is no hiding behind any excuses.

“I can’t comment and speculate about the outcomes of next test results, but we are in discussions with the NZC about allowing our other cricketers to resume match preparation and get on the field as we don’t want our team to enter the T20I series under prepared,” disclosed Mani.

“As regards positive results of six players, the PCB had shared the outcomes of all the 55 Tests conducted by one of the most reputed and credible laboratories in Pakistan with the New Zealand government and they were satisfied.

“It now needs to be examined and investigated how they could have potentially got the virus but it is anticipated and understood that this happened somewhere between Lahore and the isolation facility. We are also investigating which players were first infected and how it was transmitted to others,” observed Mani.

“Players who have tested positive were symptomatic, but following six positive results on Thursday, we can’t predict the outcome of next tests. What we know is if more players test positive on Saturday, then the 14-day quarantine period will begin from Saturday.”

Mani reiterated that young captain Babar Azam have the full backing of PCB. However, when asked to give reasons as to why the PCB did not announce the tenure of Babar’s captaincy, Mani said: “Babar Azam is a world class performer and we have appointed him captain in all 3 formats because he has a firm place in the team in all of them. He is young and can learn and improve with passage of time. I believe the more he plays the more he will improve.

There is no time frame for him, he can go longer with performance as captain.”

Mani admitted the delay in forming of regional associations as promised a year ago, but said the PCB is going to announce interim committees in two to three weeks. “I know there is delay in restructuring of regional association as we announced and promised last year but let me tell you that court cases are reasons behind this delay. We did our home work, made the constitution too but after the revamp we faced many court cases by those who were previously with the regions and associations and are now trying to damage the process as we try to implement professional setup. Now all the hurdles have been cleared and we will announce the interim committees soon.”

Mani said Pakistan’s inconsistent performance in international cricket is due to lack of high standard in domestic Cricket in past years, we changed the domestic Cricket and revamp in last year but it will takes 2 to 3 years before our team will perform with consistency at International level and as i told last year we are aiming to be in the top three of all 3 formats in coming years

To a question, Mani said Prime Minister Imran Khan - who is also patron in chief of the Board - never interferes in PCB matters. “The PM never interferes. because he knows that PCB have an organised and corporate structure,” he clarified. “We make all the decisions and are responsible for them.”

Commenting on the PCB’s stance against India, Mani said Pakistan will not contact India now. “They will have to tell us if they want to play us, not we. India is not in our plan for next Futures Tour Program. We have already made it clear that we will not contact India to play cricket.”

He added that Pakistan has successfully hosted International cricket in the past four years and now “we are looking to host ICC events.”

“First we are eyeing to host ICC junior and U-19 events here and will also work to improve our cricket infrastructure. We have also signed MoU with Emirates Cricket Board to co host ICC events in future.”

Mani said he will not reveal which candidate the PCB were supporting as the ICC Chairman but said he is looking forward to best working relation with new ICC Chairman Greg Barclay. “He is well educated and a lawyer and understands his job. I am looking forward to work with him and am sure under him ICC will able to achieve more success.”

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2020

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